It has been reported that patients with macular disease have difficulties with face perception. Some of this difficulty may be caused by the sensory and perceptual consequences of using peripheral retina. However, strong correlations have not always been found between performance on face tasks and clinical measure of function. Based on the evidence of abnormal eye movements by patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), we explored whether abnormal fixation patterns occur when these patients view an image of a face.
An OPKO OCT/SLO was used to collect structural and functional data. For each subject, the structural location of disease was determined, and the locus and stability of fixation were quantified. A SLO movie of fundus movements was recorded while the subject viewed an image of a face.
The number of fixations on internal (eyes, nose, and mouth) and external features were measured. A two-way repeated-measures analysis of variance found significant differences between the control and patient groups and among locations. A significant interaction between group and location was also found. Post hoc comparisons found a significantly greater proportion of fixations on external features for the AMD group than that in the control group.
The observed patterns of fixations of our subjects with AMD were similar to those observed in other groups of patients who have difficulties with face perception. For example, individuals with social phobias, Williams syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, or prosopagnosia have altered face perceptions and also have a significantly greater proportion of fixations on external features of faces. Abnormal eye movement patterns and fixations may contribute to deficits in face perception in AMD patients.